Day one of the HSBC New Zealand Sevens in Hamilton saw plenty of high-octane action in the round robin pool play. At the completion of the 24 matches the four pool winners and the runners-up qualified for the Cup quarter-finals on day two.
In Pool A Australia, winners of the HSBC Sydney Sevens, and Fiji both won their first two matches to set up a pool decider. Not before Fiji had a scare against Spain when it was reduced to five men after two yellow cards. Fiji held on and scored two late tries to win the match and then finished the day even stronger winning the battle for top spot against Australia 26-15.
South Africa, the reigning HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champion, finished the day unbeaten in Pool B with three wins over Papua New Guinea, Russia and England despite missing the injured Kwagga Smith, Ruhan Nel and captain Phillip Snyman. South Africa was joined by England in the quarter-finals who won its first two matches.
South Africa’s mercurial back Rosko Specman said, “We started slow but got better as the day progressed. We stuck to our structures as we had some new players coming into the team. We know if we complete the basics the opportunities will come. Against England those chances came after several phases. Tomorrow we start all over again but today will give us a lot of confidence.”
In Pool C hometown favourites New Zealand thrilled the crowd with comfortable victories over France and Scotland but they were tested by Argentina in its last match before winning 17-12 with a late try. Local boy Tim Mikkelson scored his 1000th HSBC Sevens World Series point in New Zealand’s first match against France.
The battle for second spot in Pool C was decided by the Argentina’s loss to New Zealand. The result left Scotland, Argentina and France all on a win apiece. Scotland advanced on points differential.
New Zealand playmaker Vilimoni Koroi said, “We didn’t get the result we wanted last week so we looked at the detail and wanted to improve. We were sound in the first two matches but Argentina took us to the wire in the last match which gave us a wake up call for tomorrow.”
Pool D was the tightest pool on day one. Kenya beat Samoa and Canada before Samoa beat USA and Canada to also win two matches. Qualification came down to the final pool match between Kenya and USA who had to win to progress. The match ended in a 19-all draw which meant Kenya and Samoa advanced to the quarter-finals. It was a disappointing day for USA but Perry Baker became the all-time USA top try scorer when be scored against Canada to beat Zack Test’s record of 143 tries.
The HSBC New Zealand Sevens Cup Quarter-final line up is Fiji versus Samoa, New Zealand versus England, Kenya versus Australia and South Africa versus Scotland